Saturday, February 2, 2013

Parvovirus. One puppies journey. The Story of Cora.

Every patient is a story.

And every new puppy visit starts as the first page of a new book and the promise of adventure, intrigue, joy, mystery, and a few "surprises." Those first puppy visits are the foundation of many a long relationship with many a treasured client who in most cases turn into a lifelong friendship.

Sharing the few moments of the glimpses of a pup and their family growing up together, growing older together and witnessing how they both need each other is the validation that my profession holds a greater value than a monetary paycheck could ever bring.

Those "surprises" are supposed to be the cute puppy antics that every owner testifies are the "cutest thing you've ever seen." The jumping, tugging, tumbling, tussling, and playing are the welcomed "surprises."  The housebreaking "surprises," which although unwelcome, should also be expected. But the most unwelcome and unexpected "surprises" are those you never saw coming. Vets who have been around a few years have amassed a long list of these that we hope you and your puppy will never encounter.

At the top of my "unwelcome surprise" list is parvovirus.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that strikes puppies. It has been around since the late 1970's. When it first struck it killed many thousands of dogs and puppies. A vaccine was developed and since we have been vaccinating puppies starting at 6 weeks old.

We vaccinate puppies every three weeks between 6  and 16 weeks. For pit bulls, rottweilers, dobermans, labs, German shepherds, springer spaniels, and sled dogs I vaccinate once more after 4 months. I also remind every new puppy parent that a puppy is like a newborn. They may have been vaccinated  but no vaccine is 100 percent and these puppies don't have an active adult immune system until they are 6 months old.

Don't challenge a babies immune system.
Keep them under your own roof, in your own yard, and away from places where there are other pets that may not be vaccinated, or up to date on their vaccines, are. Please don't take your newborn to Wal-Mart, or to PetsMart, or your children's soccer game. True, your puppy needs and benefits greatly from playing with other dogs, meeting other people, and learning to not be afraid of all of the things that they share their world with, BUT, socialization  cannot come at the cost of disease exposure. Socialize your puppy  in safe places where all other pets are free from disease, current on vaccines and have not been exposed to a shelter-like environment, or a pet from a shelter or place with high disease potential, for at least 2 weeks.

Last weekend a 4 month old, 13 pound dacshund mix puppy came in to visit us at the clinic with an acute case of diarrhea. She had been adopted two days before by the daughter of the couple who sat worried in the waiting room. This couple had just laid their son to rest and their daughter fearing they would be lonely found an on-line rescue and adopted little Cora. Cora traveled in a van full of other rescued pets from the shelter in the deep south to the rural countryside of Maryland. Cora's paperwork stated that she had just been given all of her shots, was spayed, and microchipped. She was what we would call "ready to go."

Then the surprise happened.Cora's few episode's of diarrhea yesterday had turned into severe unstoppable runs today. Within 24 hours the bouncy happy energetic puppy turned into a lifeless pathetic looking stinky faucet of poo. She was very sick and needed emergency intensive hospitalization and life supportive fluids and medications.

Her complete vaccination record had us stymied for a day. We just didn't imagine that a vaccinated pup could have one of those puppy diseases she had been vaccinated for?

By day three she also started to vomit and our fearful suspicion was confirmed after the fecal sample returned as being positive for parvovirus.

Cora's parents left her to be hospitalized so she could get her needed i.v. fluids, antibiotics and supportive care. These are necessary to allow her body the time it needs to fight off the virus that was stripping her gut of all fluids, and sucking the energy from every cell in her body.

Like many rescues, and like so many of us, her new parents were not prepared for this medical emergency. There is no way to foresee how this disease will unfold, and now way to tell a very worried owner that their pet will survive parvo.

Here is my experience with parvo. It loves puppies. Especially puppies aged 3 to 5 month old. It causes a severe rapid onset of vomiting and diarrhea. If you think you can treat it at home you can't. If you think that it is not something to be terrified of, you are wrong.  If you haven't brought your 6 or more week old puppy to the vet, or if you aren't sure of your dogs vaccine status, then you need to visit them as soon as possible.

Cora spent a week in the hospital. At day three she was dying. Her body was so depleted that she was fading away. Her parents were notified and they decided to put her down. Her prognosis was still guarded, they had suffered a terrible loss already and they could not afford her care.

There is nothing more heart breaking than a sick and dying puppy and parents who give up..I understand their concerns but I can't do it, I can't. I can't look in those sad desperate suffering eyes and say "I don't care."

So Cora was signed over to No Kill Harford. She was given 2 units of lifesaving plasma. and massive, expensive antibiotics and the monitoring she needed.

One week later she is a bouncing, kissing, heart warming miracle of love.

She heads to her new home tomorrow. Where she will capture more hearts I am sure.

I got this update yesterday, 3/13/13. We are all so happy for Cora!!

Hello Krista,
I was surprised at how few pics we are taking these days (busy busy!), but here are some from today (last one); the other two were from a couple of weeks ago. Cora is now 20+ lbs and has gone through her puppy shots. She still has a canine influenza (I believe) booster in a couple of weeks. She had a reaction from her first shot here- 4 bumps on her nape that kept getting larger. There was even a bump where her microchip was. Sensitive? The vet did a complimentary xray to make sure it wasn't something else. So with this last shot she received some benadryl beforehand- this time no reaction. She was on antibiotics to get the bumps down, and they have completely disappeared. She also was taking benadryl pills to help her with itching, and we shampoo her with something special, because she had a mangy-looking toe and hair missing from her front inside paws. Maybe all that was due to stress from leaving her first and second families, and unsure of us? But things have greatly improved. Again, she is a very smart puppy, and I can tell how much she wants to be good. She has been losing teeth, and so she was biting everything she could get her teeth into, but that seems to be getting better recently. I bought her a deer antler, which she adores! She has very few accidents, but they still happen on occasion when we are not reading her signals. She knows how to "ring the bell" but it's a delicate "ring" and her whimpering we sometimes contribute to her "talking" to the cats :-) She is a big fan of the snow, she loves digging and I can tell she is going to go after moles and such once spring arrives. She also loves hiding her toys all around the house! She grabbed some of our shoes to softly chew and hide- but that lasted 3 or 4 days. She was told "no" and hasn't done that in maybe 2 weeks. She's socializing a little bit on our bike path walks, and is a lot nicer to dogs her size & smaller than to the big dogs. Doesn't seem logical that she would be aggressive towards dogs 10x her size who could bite her head off :-) But that may be a standard "dog thing." Trying to think what else.... all in all everything is going very well! Her crate is still her place of solace and I love how she goes in willingly when it's time.... She seems to know the routine now. Oh, this weekend we have a soccer tournament in NH so she has to go to boarding for the first time. I am crossing my fingers!

Sleeping in her new home..Obviously strictly being kept off the couch.

From April 2014...her mom sent me a pensive pup photo.. 

Update; February 2015; Cora is now 2-1/2 years old. She lives in Maine. They sent me this photo and caption. She is a lucky girl, and they love her to pieces!

A note from her mom; 
"They say Cora is 6 lbs overweight. But we feed her what we thought was appropriate bc she is so active! Ok, possibly we have gone a little overboard w/feeding & treats... Is she not beautiful though??!! She is so strong. This was our little Parvo Pup. Look at her now. We love her like crazy. She is amazing & we can't imagine life without her..."

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